Coach Bux

Coach Bux
Yokohama High School varsity football players wondered what kind of a coach we would have for our 1955 season. At the end of all classes, during the first day of school, an announcement over the loudspeaker informed all prospective football players to go to the gym to meet our new coach. More than one hundred high school athletes from all four grades gathered for the introduction. A husky muscular man with a square jaw and tanned face entered the gym. He had on a red baseball cap, stood not more than 5’ 7,” and weighed about two hundred pounds. He walked briskly to the stage microphone in his red sneakers. Many burns, scars, and graft marks covered his thick hands and large powerful arms. In a loud Texas drawl, he said at a deliberate and easy pace, “I feel…. like we have some young men here, who want to play FOOTBALL!” The word “football” reverberated off the gymnasium walls with tremendous volume. His instant charisma evoked a roar from the crowd of young men before our new leader. We showed him how much we wanted to start practice. He looked calm, confident, and knowledgeable. I could hardly wait to have him coach our team. “My name is Jerome Buxkemper. I will coach you men how to play winning football starting today!” We responded with another loud roar of approval. “Men, I want to tell you something about myself. You see my arms and legs have many ugly scars from a horrible accident I suffered before coming here. I lost my wife in a car accident with a gasoline truck in Texas. By the grace of God, I survived after many skin grafts. Close friends suggested I start a new life away from this terrible memory and try to fulfill the dreams of other athletes by coaching. When I learned you needed a coach, I came to help make you the best football players, and young men, ever to wear the uniform of the Yokohama High School Red Devils.” A long emotional standing ovation followed. “Our manager has practice uniforms, helmets, shoes, and socks organized by size. Form a line to enter the locker room, select your equipment, and place your school clothes in your assigned locker. Meet me on the football practice field in thirty minutes.” I put my uniform, shoulder and hip pads on, and my helmet with white mask designed to protect my mouth full of braces, and ran to the practice field. On an extremely hot and humid day, Coach “Bux” directed the greatest football practice I had ever experienced. He gave us spirited calisthenics, stretching and laps around the inside of a wire-fenced field, while we yelled out unified cadence. Baffled Japanese passing by on the sidewalks gathered outside watching with interest. Bux’s assistant coach, Mr. Swanson, helped during the practice. He was a tall and muscular blond Algebra teacher. Bux sent him a hundred yards away for our next drill. Coach told us to choose someone our own size. “When I blow my whistle pick up your partner and carry him over your right shoulder to where Mr. Swanson stands. Run as fast as you can. Set your partner down on that line. Your partner will put you on his right shoulder and run back on the next whistle.” As he blew a high-pitched screech from his whistle, fifty players grabbed their partners and carried them as fast as they could across the field to Mr. Swanson. Each one set his partner down. The partner repeated the procedure until everyone had completed one strenuous run not only with a partner, but also weighed down with thirty pounds of equipment! Some players had great difficulty running with any speed carrying such weight. Bux advised, “If you want to win football games, you must train your body with exercises that will get you into shape for football—the toughest sport in high school. Does anybody on this team want to win football games?” We all responded with a rousing unified, “Yes, sir.” “Alright men. Now pick up your partner on the whistle again.” Another screech sounded and fifty more players lumbered across the field like a herd of armored warriors carrying a wounded comrade to safety and carefully laying him down. Suddenly the roles reversed and the partner returned to the start with the same burden. This drill totally exhausted me and everybody else except our captain Tom Hemingway. Tom stood 5’ 11”, and weighed two hundred pounds of muscle, sinew, and bone. He worked out on weights and had a powerful body. His neck and calf muscles looked as wide and strong as tree trunks. Tom lifted Jerry Cohen as if he were a blanket, even though Jerry weighed one hundred and eighty pounds and stood 6’ 1,” and raced to coach Swanson before anyone else arrived. He gently set Jerry down. Jerry struggled mightily to lift Tom and keep him on his shoulders. Eventually he finished the drill straining, sweating, and grunting. Tom helped at the end by rolling off and landing on his feet. Bux showed us his tackling drill that began by starting two lines of runners and tacklers of facing each other ten yards apart. Coach threw the football to the first runner. The ball carrier cradling it under one arm, charged at the tackler. The tackler wrapped his arms around the legs of the rushing runner and squeezed them together while driving his shoulder into the runner’s waist with head up. Bux showed us how the drill worked by calling Tom who demonstrated on Jerry. Bux threw the ball to Jerry. Tom lowered his shoulder, churned his powerful legs, and hit Jerry with a tremendous THWAAAK! He lifted Jerry and crunched him into the ground. “OK men. That’s the way to do it. Mr. Swanson will take half of you with him and the others stay here to complete the drill five times with your same partners.” Bux called us over to the football field marked with lye every five yards from goal to goal. He pointed down at the field, “Look at the distance of four yards on this football field.” He demonstrated this short space by walking from one five-yard marker with the football in his hand to a spot one yard from the next marker. “That is a short distance men. If our team makes four yards every time we carry the ball, no team can stop us. We must push their lineman back far enough that our ball carrier can make that small distance on each play. If we do this, we can’t lose a game. We teach our linemen to drive our opponents back from the start of the play, and keep driving them  to make it easier for our ball carriers that run that small distance on every play. Does everybody understand?” We yelled a loud unified, “Yes, sir.” Bux broke us up into line and backfield positions. He practiced us until he selected the first and second team defense and offense.In the next week he commented, “Men I see we have some tough linemen and fast backs on this team. We will get better every day with these drills.” Each day our team did these drills for about two hours for the first two weeks. At the end of that time about half the players stopped coming to practice having realized this game demanded more than they could give. Jerome Buxkemper knew how to get the most out of his players. More importantly, he connected with his players, as a father should to his son, making the relationship one that thrived on powerful emotions. However, we had no idea then, how much his qualities and coaching would affect us positively for our future.
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This entry was posted in Memoir "All the Difference", Non-Fiction, Pictures, Sports, Writings and tagged , , by Daniel C. Lavery. Bookmark the permalink.

About Daniel C. Lavery

Dan’s writing shows his transformation from a child to an athlete and a Duke pre-ministerial student where he began to question ancient and arbitrary dogma. He graduated from Annapolis, navigated a Navy jet, and a ship to Vietnam, fell in love, turned peace activist and a civil rights lawyer for Cesar Chavez's UFW. His memoir, "All the Difference," describes the experiences, some humorous and others deadly, that changed his consciousness from a pawn to an advocate crusading for justice against some of the most powerful forces in America.

5 thoughts on “Coach Bux

  1. Apparently my mind, with respect to my body and ego, chose to not remember those first practices of carrying another player on our shoulders 50 yards as I’m aching after just reading this. Bux was a no nonsense Coach whom I remember letting us know at half time what all we’d done wrong while we were leading 28 – 0. I had to glance at the score board to make sure I had the score right. Many times over the years I’ve wondered if I should have reminded Bux it was us who had the 28, but know to this day that had I said that I’d still be running laps!

    • He was demanding, but always with spirit and encouragement. Coaching varsity football, basketball, and baseball, was an unusual demand even in those days. At Jordan H.S. in Long Beach, we had four football teams, Varsity, JV, B, and C with their own coaches, and nearly the same for the other three sports. Thanks for your input, Pinky. Dan

  2. Many of us Yo-Hi students had the pleasure of having Coach Buxkemper as the best history teacher, ever!

    • Bux impressed most everyone who came in contact with him once they saw what he was all about:history,sports,love, and humanity. That kind of sums up one wonderful man, coach,and teacher. Anyone who knew him was lucky to have had that experience. Thanks for sharing. Dan

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